Curriculum overload and religion classes

An article in the Irish Times today reports that there is not enough space in the Primary school Curriculum for the proposed new course on ERB and Ethics (Education about Religions, Beliefs and Ethics). The INTO and various bodies and individuals have raised these concerns.

The proposal is that the ERB & Ethics classes would be separate to the existing religious instruction classes in primary schools. The fear raised is that the primary school curriculum is so full that there is simply not enough time to have another course.

Atheist Ireland has made a Submission to the NCCA on the proposed course and you can read it here.

Atheist Ireland has many concerns about this new course. One of those concerns is the fact that at second level nearly all schools combine the state Religious Education classes with Religious Instruction classes and present it to all parents as suitable for their children. In many cases this State religion course is made compulsory. Parents are never informed that elements of these religion classes are in fact Catholic religious instruction. See here article by Emma O’Kelly RTE regarding the opt out in Castletroy Community College. Over the years Atheist Ireland has received many complaints from parents who have been informed that they cannot opt their children out of this state religion class. This applies to all second level schools and not just second level schools under the patronage of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has various agreements with the ETBs over the teaching of religion in Community schools, Designated Community Colleges and non Designated Community Colleges.

We are concerned that the same thing will happen at primary level, that Religious instruction will be combined with the state course on ERB and Ethics and made compulsory in schools because of curriculum overload.

We recently sent an FOI request to the NCCA seeking documents and any agreements in relation to the Religious Education Course at second level. We believe it is in the public interest to know if there are any agreements in place to combine the state Religious Education course with religious instruction classes. In the main these are Catholic Religious Instruction classes.

The NCCA has refused this information and we are now appealing that decision. There is no valid reason why we should not have these documents. RTE got the same type of documents from the Department of Education in relation to the religion course in the Community National Schools. We intend to publish these documents in the public interest.

It is really worrying that the NCCA are not committed to openness and transparency regarding how the second level Religious Education course was introduced and how they dealt with curriculum overload on that occasion. The NCCA has a public duty to protect the rights of persons whom it serves so we have every right to know how they conduct themselves in this regard (Section 42, Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission Act 2014).


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